Pecan bar thingies

OK, this recipe is the most decadent, delicious and delightful dessert recipe you’re likely to find here on DRB. The Queen (it’s all her fault) contributed this recipe from a friend who brought these little devils to a church potluck. You may know those church potluck cooks—they feel no guilt making their most delectable, diet-wrecking, downright tasty dishes to church potlucks when they’d never make them for their foodie friends. God love ’em.

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What a great time when you’re a 20- or-30-something and you get together with work buddies or college buddies or anybuddies for a Thanksgiving potluck. Chances are your people are from different places with different traditions and favorite recipes for stuffing, sides, or desserts. Everyone pitches in. Hats off to my friend Dave and his sausage balls.

Here’s a favorite from a Friendsgiving long ago and far away. Still good as ever.

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Pasta sauce

Hey, Dad really likes pasta with sauce…or without sauce, actually. I could eat it every day probably. But then…well, caloric intake could start to get out of hand — you get it. When people ask me, “What do you like to cook?”, the first thing that comes to mind is pasta with sauce. Having Italian friends in high school who showed me that yes, there are other kinds of pasta besides spaghetti, and many hours studying my favorite Italian chefs on TV, plus 20 years or so of development, have made my pasta sauces fantastic — in my own mind — and simple, with tons of flavor. Remember, it’s about flavor.

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Sugar is sweet — and so is sugar.

Sugar is sweet, but there so many sugars to choose from. I have a love-hate-2nd chance relationship with sugar. I don’t expect ever to embrace refined white sugar again, but there are several actual sugar and non-sugar sweeteners that pass muster for my various purposes. This is important to work out for yourself, as there is so much evidence and allegation about how bad plain white sugar is for us.

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Dad’s Ragu

Just about everyone (We have a notable exception in our family.) likes pasta sauce with meat and tomato. I love it. I’ve made it many times and tried various recipes, mostly called ragu or Bolognese. Ragu in Italian means tasty or savory, or it refers to the meaty, tomatoey, stewy dish itself. It (the word and the recipe) are derived, apparently, from the French ragoût. OK, so much for technicalities.

Remember, this recipe is all about using what you have on hand, although doing exactly what I did should be great. This is a wonderful dish for expanding your horizons without taking the time to add any skills. Just add imagination.

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Follow that salmon!

Salmon have been escaping from some saltwater open-net aquaculture sites at an alarming rate, according to Melissa Clark in the New York Times article, The Salmon on Your Plate Has a Troubling Cost. That’s right. In the worst cases, large numbers of escaping salmon have a devastating effect on native species. Not good.

But there’s hope in land-based farms such as LocalCoho in upstate New York. As with other “new agriculture” solutions, sustainability depends on the right combination of game-changing technology, adequate start-up funding, and a public willing to pay premium prices. Watch LocalCoho’s video and get a clearer picture (and a positive outlook) on why land-based salmon farming is a big step ahead. Local Coho salmon is mostly used in New York restaurants but can be purchased by us non-New Yorkers on at a pricey $17.99/pound. Let’s all support this and help lower the costs—to us and the environment.

I’m no expert on salmon farming, but have been hopeful about farm-raised fish and other crops. Oysters from the Bay of Maine. Seaweed farming in Alaska. It’s all good, but everything new presents new challenges.

Meals in the mail

I figured it was about time to talk about meal kit plans. We have tried several. And have canceled them all after a fair trial. I suppose this sounds like I’m condemning them, but I’m not. It’s just that after a while, it’s time to try something new.

My favorites are and These are not meal kit plans per se, but specialty food sources. We started with Butcher Box on the recommendation of a friend. And we love their meats, which is their specialty. Great ribeye steaks, the best chicken we’ve ever bought. Fantastic pork chops. Helpful recipes. Wild Grain got our interest because we wanted some authentic San Francisco sourdough bread and were too lazy to keep our starter going. We love their breads and biscuits and croissants. Not so much the “English muffins” or pasta, but we’d start this service again just for the sourdough varieties.

We’ve tried several meal deals where they send you all the ingredients and a 4-color glossy with instructions. These have almost always yielded tasty and nutritious meals that were fun to prepare together. After a while, like a couple of months, it was clear that the meals came out of the same mind. They got a bit boring. But I’m not complaining; it was just time to get back to home cooking and imagination. I think the most valuable lesson was that many meals are just variations on a theme. Sear some meat, add some spices and herbs to get the cultural vibe you’re looking for, improvise with stuff you have in stock, and execute the method with care. Volia! You surprise yourself with how versatile and skilled you are.

If you are the cook in the house, with folks looking to you for their evening meal, then I encourage you t o try one or more of the popular meal plan outfits out there, learn what you can from how they approach their recipes, and then you’ve reached escape velocity, take off into the next chapter in your cooking life. Bon cooking!

Summer peach cobbler

I’ve always loved a fresh-fruit summer cobbler, even when called a buckle, crumble, crisp, Betty, or slump(!), but thought of them as a lot of work—or at least exceeding my “too much work” threshold—to be thought of as “convenient” or “fast.” No longer. This recipe is proving to be pretty fast, flexible (We are nothing if not flexible at Dad’s Recipe Box.), and reliable—almost resistant—to abuse. I’ve found a version that claims to be even simpler, but it doesn’t quite have the jazz that this one does.

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Alice Waters

I hope that everyone knows and admires Alice Waters like I do for her contributions to healthy eating. But in case you’re not clued up, let me enlighten you.

Way back in 1974, my future brother-in-law—a undergrad at Cal Berkeley—took me to Chez Panisse for lunch. It had been open about three years at that point, but I knew or cared nothing about healthy eating then and don’t remember that Alice Waters’ name ever came up. All I knew was that I had the best salad I’d ever tasted. Now, for me, growing up in suburban Chicago, I only knew that a “California burger” meant it had lettuce and tomato on it. How pathetic was that? Little did I know that in lunching at Chez Panisse, I was eating at what will go down in history as one of the great restaurants.

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Doing Keto Defined

This is the simple definition. Keto is an eating hack. By this, I mean it’s something you do to finesse weight loss. It’s not a program you sign up for or pay a subscription fee to. It’s not just another diet that somebody else thought up to take your money. It’s not something you suffer through in order to lose a few pounds that you have it on past experience will show up again later.

Keto is shorthand for choosing ketosis-encouraging food to eat and other food to avoid eating. It’s totally under your control and like I said, it’s an eating hack or body hack. You make choices and your body responds because it has to. No options.

We’ve lost a lot of pounds doing Keto over the past 5+ years and think we understand the mechanics of cooking and eating Keto pretty well. Here, I take a closer look at how eating Keto works to help you create your own approach to Keto.

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The National Eating Disorder

DadsRecipeBox got its start when I decided to pass along family-favorite recipes so the kids could make those same dishes in their own kitchens some day. I also shared home-cooking tips I’d learned since stepping up my cooking activity what with The Queen building her home-based business.

About that time, I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and I suddenly had a larger mission. We were in the throes of a “national eating disorder” perpetuated by systemic issues around how we get our food, from the farm all the way to the table. Our family-favorite dishes might be hurting us and our families. I needed to write about this.

From that time until now, DadsRecipeBox has shared info and ideas around three interests: family-favorite recipes, cooking tips from one home cook to another, and the larger world of the food system and its impact on our lives.

Now that a day-job is no longer a distraction, I am diving in to DadsRecipeBox with renewed purpose. I will publish 2-3 posts per week exploring three themes: recipes, home cooking, the food system. I will also produce a book provisionally called Dad Versus the Food System and other, more typical cook books emphasizing healthy cooking and eating. This scratches my publishing itch (see while taking up Michael Pollan’s challenge to examine and act on our national eating disorder.

Hope you can join us for the ride.

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